This evening the San Francisco Symphony welcomes Pablo Heras-Casado back to Davies Symphony Hall, to lead a program of music by Esa-Peka Salonen, Shostakovich and Brahms. The program features Salonen’s Helix, the Shostakovich Violin Concerto No 2 and Brahm’s First Symphony. The soloist in the violin concerto is the Symphony’s own Concertmaster Alexander Barantschik.
Maestro Heras-Casado, having made his debut with the Symphony in 2010, and become a Shenson Young Artist in 2013, is a welcome guest in San Francisco. Principal Guest Conductor of Teatro Real in Madrid, he also has a long-term collaboration with Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, has become the Conductor Laureate of the Orchestra of St Luke’s – the first in the ensemble’s history – and has been appointed Director of the Granada Festival this year – Granada being the place of his birth.
Described by The New York Times as “…. the thinking person’s idea of a hotshot young conductor”, Pablo Heras-Casado makes three debut appearances this season – at the Boulezsaal with Staatskapelle Berlin, and with the Dallas Symphony and Verbier Festival orchestras. He also conducts the Spanish premiere of Zimmermann’s Die Soldaten at Teatro Real – a work hailed as the highlight of the 2012 Salzburg Festival.
Alexander Barantschik has been Concertmaster of the San Francisco Symphony since 2001, prior to which he held the same position at the London Symphony Orchestra and Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. Hailing originally from Saint Petersburg, where he studied at the celebrated Conservatory, Mr Barantschik has performed with major Russian orchestras such as the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic, and has collaborated or appeared with a number of illustrious names in music, including André Previn, Mstislav Rostropovich, Maxim Vengerov and Yuri Bashmet. To add to his achievements, he was also Concertmaster for the year-long, three-continent, Pierre Boulez 75th Birthday Celebration.
This week’s program opens with the first performance by the San Francisco Symphony of a piece by Esa-Pekka Salonen – Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Philharmonia Orchestra, Conductor Laureate for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Composer-in-Residence at the New York Philharmonic. Entitled Helix, this work is Salonen’s musical representation of the spiral shape of the helix, a piece gradually increasing in tempo, in what he describes as an “accelerando”. Salonen wrote the work, on commission from the BBC Proms, for Valery Gergiev and the World Orchestra for Peace. It was dedicated to Maestro Gergiev who, with the Orchestra, gave Helix its world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall in London on August 27th, 2005.
Shostakovich composed his Violin Concerto No 2 in 1967 for the celebrated violinist David Oistrakh, who was the soloist at its premiere in Moscow on September 26th of that year, with Kirill Kondrashin and the Moscow Philharmonic. Oistrak also performed at the US premiere of this work on January 11th, 1968, with Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic. The concerto was written at a time when Shostakovich was in poor health, after what must have seemed like a lifetime marked by ongoing inconsistencies in his relationship with the Soviet authorities. Consequently, this work has been described as depicting tension, confusion and sadness in varying degrees, yet it also has passages of liveliness, humor and a certain gentleness, as well as a somewhat bitter undertone. Plaintive at times, frenetic at others perhaps, but nevertheless the concerto is strangely appealing.
The program ends with the work over which Brahms agonized for 14 years – his Symphony No 1. A prolific composer of chamber music, Brahms was perpetually haunted by the shadow of Beethoven, whom he admired enormously, but whose brilliance had the effect on Brahms of making him question his own capabilities. As things turned out, he need not have judged himself so harshly – when it finally premiered in 1876, it was considered “one of the greatest symphonies of the Austro-German tradition”, and referred to by German conductor and pianist Hans von Bülow as “Beethoven’s Tenth”. (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
This program by the San Francisco Symphony, led by Pablo Heras-Casado, with soloist Alexander Barantschik, opens at Davies Symphony Hall this evening, and runs for a further two performances, on March 2nd and 3rd. For more information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Symphony website.
Information sourced from:
San Francisco Symphony program notes (Alexander Barantschik)
Further reading on the program works: